THE East Anglian Air Ambulance (EAAA) has awarded a contract to aviation company Bond Air Services for two new aircraft which will provide the region with the most advanced air ambulance fleet in the UK.
Both aircraft will also, for the first time, be capable of night flying, bringing the prospect that the life-saving air ambulance service could in future be extended to cover the hours of darkness.
The EAAA operates the only dedicated air ambulance service across Norfolk, Suffolk, Cambridgeshire and Bedfordshire, with aircraft based at both Norwich and Cambridge airports, and has been operating interim helicopters provided by Bond since its previous operator, Sterling Aviation, had its fleet grounded by the Civil Aviation Authority.
Commenting on the announcement, Tim Page, the charity’s Chief Executive, said: “The arrival of our new aircraft marks a big step forward in emergency care in East Anglia and will give people in our region the benefit of an air ambulance fleet which is unmatched in the UK. As with our current aircraft, they will be fully medically equipped and each will carry aboard NHS doctors highly trained in emergency medicine, and critical care paramedics from the East of England Ambulance Service NHS Trust.
We already operate a dedicated dawn-to-dusk service, bringing the skills of our highly trained crews to the sites of accidents and medical emergencies anywhere in the region in around 20 minutes. With the NHS increasingly reliant on a smaller number of specialist hospitals, we’re also often being tasked to convey patients not just to the closest hospital but to the hospital best suited to treat their condition.
“We’re continually looking to enhance our service, however, and the capability of our new aircraft to fly at night represents a major opportunity to help people in our region in their hour of need – whenever that may occur.”
Under the terms of the new agreement with Bond, the charity’s Cambridge Airport base will take delivery of an EC135 P2 aircraft in December 2011. This is a similar model to that being used by the EAAA at Norwich Airport and is the most widely used helicopter for air ambulance work in the UK because of its size, performance, reliability and cost.
Following this, in July 2012, it will receive an EC135 T2e to upgrade the aircraft at Norwich Airport. This aircraft will be ‘fully night-capable’, meaning it can be used for missions after dark – a development that the EAAA is actively exploring.
Finally, in December 2013, the charity’s Cambridge Airport base will take delivery of an EC 145 T2, a more spacious aircraft with enhanced operational capabilities, offering the capability to carry more people over longer distances and at greater speed.
Tim Page continued: “We’re delighted to be working with Bond Air Services and have good relationships with the company already, as they stepped in to help us as part of our contingency plan earlier this year. I’d also like to thank Cambridge Airport, which generously hosts Anglia Two and its crew and which has supported us for many years.
“Finally, I salute the many people, groups and businesses which fundraise on our behalf. The delivery of these new aircraft is testament to their huge efforts and I ask them to keep up the good work. We’re still completely reliant on donations and fundraising to operate our service and can only continue with the help of our supporters. The cost of these new aircraft will mean that we need a little more support from our donors, but we will provide a great deal more in return.”
Hayden Newton, Chief Executive of the East of England Ambulance Service NHS Trust, said: “The EAAA provides a vital service, working alongside the Ambulance Service in often difficult and challenging circumstances, providing emergency care to patients at the incident scene. We welcome the arrival of the new aircraft which will increase its capabilities still further and we look forward to continuing to work with the charity in delivering pre-hospital emergency care to those in need across the region.”
Chris Greenhill, Managing Director at Bond Air Services, said: ‘We’ve enjoyed a successful partnership with the EAAA for the past six months, and we’re looking forward to developing the highest quality care model in our relationship with such a highly regarded and well respected charity. We specialise in providing a total solution, which includes the provision of back-up aircraft and crews which translates into achieving in excess of 98.7% availability for all of our customers which we are delighted to confirm will now include the EAAA.”
The EAAA has awarded a contract to Bond Air Services for seven years.